A week from today, the 2018 NFL Combine will be well underway—giving us a closer look at the athletic ability of this year’s draft class. In case you missed the early entries in our prospect preview series, you can find them right here: OL, RB & FB.
Today’s preview focuses on the WR group. The Falcons may very well be moving on from Taylor Gabriel, who had a lackluster year in Steve Sarkisian’s offense. Atlanta has a few interesting depth pieces in Justin Hardy and Marvin Hall, but not much in the way of proven talent. The team seems likely to add a WR3-level player in the mid-rounds, but we’ll cast a wide net—just in case.
Take a look below at some of the more intriguing WR options for the Falcons attending this year’s Combine.
MARCELL ATEMAN, Oklahoma State
The 6’4, 220 Marcell Ateman is a great fit for those who think the Falcons should go big at WR. He’s got long arms and a fantastic catch radius to go along with solid long speed. Ateman is a proven red-zone threat with the potential to develop into a well-rounded WR3 in the NFL, but his route running and overall technique as a receiver need significant polish. His athletic testing will likely determine his draft stock, which is hovering in the early Day 3 range at the moment.
DEON CAIN, Clemson
A fluid mover with solid size at 6’1, 210, Deon Cain is the latest in a long line of intriguing WR prospects to come out of Clemson. Cain offers a well-rounded skillset—he’s dangerous as a deep threat, chain-mover, and yards-after-catch receiver. He’s a polished player with great football IQ, but there are some concerns about his lack of production in 2017. Cain will likely demand a Day 2 selection, but he’s got great potential as a future WR2 in the NFL.
D.J. CHARK, LSU
Another receiver with good size (6’3, 187) and athletic ability that could be in the mix for the Falcons on Day 2, D.J. Chark turned heads with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. He’s a proven deep threat, but didn’t post big numbers due to the QB situation at LSU. Chark is a bit of a one-trick pony at the moment and needs a good bit of development at the NFL level, but he’s got the traits to eventually become an average WR2 or high-level WR3.
KEKE COUTEE, Texas Tech
A player that I’ve only recently heard about, Keke Coutee is an electric deep threat with plus agility and after-catch ability. Our own Eric Robinson has called him “a bigger Taylor Gabriel”—and after watching a little of his tape, I’m inclined to agree with that assessment. Coutee (5’11, 180) had great production at Texas Tech, but will need to further develop his route running and ability to make plays in traffic. As an early Day 3 pick, Coutee has a lot of potential and also offers very good punt and kick return ability.
MICHAEL GALLUP, Colorado State
A classic jack-of-all-trades receiver, Michael Gallup offers a well-rounded skillset to go along with good size (6’1, 202) and plus athletic ability. He can separate in a lot of different ways and is a fluid mover in space, but he’s raw in his route running and didn’t face a lot of high-level competition at Colorado State. As a late Day 2 pick, Gallup has the ability to come in and contribute immediately with the potential to develop into a full-time starter.
DAESEAN HAMILTON, Penn State
If you prefer technically-proficient WRs, Daesean Hamilton might be the most polished in the entire draft. He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s got good size at 6’1, 205 and is a fiery competitor. Hamilton is unlikely to ever turn into a top-tier WR, but he offers early-career starting potential as a dependable and versatile WR3. His athletic testing will likely determine where teams are willing to draft him, but I’d begin considering him in the 4th-5th round range.
CHRISTIAN KIRK, Texas A&M
If you’re in favor of the Falcons taking a receiver early on Day 2, Christian Kirk should be of great interest to you. Kirk is a high-level slot receiver with good size (5’11, 200) and exceptional toughness—he’s totally unafraid to go up and get the ball in traffic. He’s got proven red zone production and can work the short and intermediate areas of the field, but he’s not a great athlete and isn’t likely to burn anyone deep. Kirk is getting some first round buzz right now, but his testing will go a long way in determining his draft value.
ANTHONY MILLER, Memphis
Speaking of Eric Robinson, Anthony Miller might be one of his favorite players in the draft—and it’s easy to see why. Miller possesses solid size at 5’11, 190 and is an impressive, quick-twitch receiver with a fiery competitive streak to his game. He’ll need to improve his drops and polish his route running, but Miller looks the part of a very good WR3 with WR2 potential in the NFL.
D.J. MOORE, Maryland
Another Day 2 WR that could interest the Falcons, D.J. Moore comes from the same school as Stefon Diggs and actually plays a lot like him. He’s a great athlete with fantastic burst and agility, and has pretty good size (5’11, 215) to go along with it. Moore is also an impressive returner and can contribute there early on. There are some technique issues to clean up and Moore struggled at times with contested catches, but he’s a high-ceiling player with future WR2 written all over him.
DANTE PETTIS, Washington
A polished receiver with plus athleticism and solid size (6’1, 192), Dante Pettis looks the part of an immediate NFL contributor. He’s capable of lining up anywhere and making plays, and that versatility translates to the return game as well. Pettis had inconsistent production at Washington and there are questions about his ability to handle more physical NFL defenses, but he’s an interesting option late Day 2-early Day 3.
TRE’QUAN SMITH, UCF
A player that I’ve already done a full scouting report on, Tre’Quan Smith is an intriguing deep threat with solid size (6’1, 210) and freakishly long arms. He’s got great long speed and was a fantastic red-zone option for UCF, with 13 TDs in 2017. Smith isn’t an elite athlete and needs to further develop his route running, but as a 3rd-4th round pick, he should find his way into a role as a high-level WR3—with WR2 potential down the road—early in his career.
JAVON WIMS, Georgia
A local favorite with great size at 6’4, 215, Javon Wims made a name for himself in 2017 with an impressive season that saw him take over as Georgia’s WR1. He’s great at pulling in contested catches and can win as a deep threat with his size, but Wims doesn’t have the look of a great athlete and needs to continue to develop his route running. As a late-round pick, Wims offers the ability to make an impact early on, but his ceiling is likely a solid-to-good WR3.
What are your thoughts on the Falcons adding a receiver in the mid-to-late rounds? How early would you consider drafting a WR? Who are some of your favorites in this class?