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2019 NFL Combine: WR prospects to watch for the Falcons

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With Justin Hardy departing in free agency and Mohamed Sanu’s status uncertain, the Falcons could be in the market for a WR in the 2019 draft. We take a look at some of the best options attending the 2019 NFL Combine.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Combine is nearly here, which means that we’re about to witness the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2019 class compete in the on-field workouts that we playfully refer to as the “Underwear Olympics”. It’s pretty good fun if you’re a fan of the NFL draft—although we can certainly the debate the usefulness of some of these metrics in evaluating prospects—and hopefully it will help complete the picture on some of the more polarizing players.

I’ve been breaking down each position group by giving you the top-10 players that might be of interest to the Falcons. If you’ve missed the previous entries, you can find them below:

Offense

Defense

Today’s group is the wide receivers. The Falcons recently addressed the position with a first-round pick in 2018. While Calvin Ridley looks like a potential star-in-the-making, Atlanta could still use more depth at the position with the impending free agent departure of Justin Hardy. There’s also the open question of Sanu’s status: the Falcons could save some cap room by moving on this offseason. I think they’ll keep him this season, but that’s likely to change in 2020 with Ridley assuming a larger role.

As the team is probably looking for a future WR3 at most with Julio and Ridley in place, I’m leaving out the top names—like D.K. Metcalf, Kelvin Harmon, N’Keal Harry, and Riley Ridley—in favor of highlighting some Day 3 prospects that Atlanta is more likely to target.

Here are some of the top WR prospects for the Falcons who are attending the 2019 NFL Combine.

Jamal Custis, Syracuse

Listed Size: 6’5, 213

2018 Production: 51 receptions, 906 yards, 17.8 YPR, 6 TD

A Day 3 prospect with significant upside, Syracuse’s Jamal Custis had a relatively quiet college career before putting together an impressive senior campaign. For fans who like big, physical receivers, Custis is your guy—at 6’5, 213, he’s a red zone weapon and matchup nightmare in the slot against smaller CBs. Despite his large frame, Custis has surprising athletic ability that makes him more than just a possession receiver.

Custis still has quite a bit of development to do as a route runner, and he’s not much of a vertical threat with merely adequate long speed. As a low-cost replacement for Mohamed Sanu, however, Custis has a lot of potential. He can be a similar threat in the red zone and across the middle of the field, and offers the same versatility to play on the inside or outside.

Greg Dortch, Wake Forest

Listed Size: 5’9, 165

2018 Production: 89 receptions, 1078 yards, 12.1 YPR, 8 TD

Those looking for the Falcons to add an impact slot receiver and one of the best punt returners in college football will love Wake Forest’s Greg Dortch. You may be concerned about Dortch’s size—at only 5’9, 165, can he really be expected to hold up against NFL hits? The answer is a resounding yes. Dortch is a fearless receiver on the inside that features incredible resilience and toughness. Add to that impressive agility and quickness and you’ve got the makings of a high-level slot player at the NFL level.

Physically, Dortch clearly has some limitations. He’s never going to be a high impact red zone player, and while he’s got great athletic talent, Dortch still needs to polish many aspects of his route running and technique. However, he’s got the ability to immediately contribute on special teams as an excellent punt and kick returner, and his natural talents should lead to early success as a WR4 with upside. For his late-Day 3 price tag, Dortch could wind up a bargain.

Terry Godwin, Georgia

Listed Size: 5’11, 168

2018 Production: 23 receptions, 385 yards, 16.7 YPR, 3 TD

A late Day 3 option that has really made a name for himself through the Shrine Game, Georgia’s Terry Godwin could be an intriguing option to replace Justin Hardy. He’s a far more dynamic player who I think has been criminally underrated due to his lack of elite production—but keep in mind he was playing on an offense with an elite running game and two other NFL-caliber options in Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman. I had Atlanta drafting Godwin in the sixth round in my third mock draft, and here’s what I had to say about him:

Godwin put on an absolute clinic at the East-West Shrine Game, showing off elite route running and technique to go along with impressive change-of-direction ability. While Godwin is only 5’11, 185, he’s a natural separator and brings surprisingly good blocking chops to the table as well. He can take the spot of Justin Hardy on the roster at WR4, and should prove a more productive option in the long run.

Mecole Hardman, Georgia

Listed Size: 5’11, 183

2018 Production: 35 receptions, 543 yards, 15.5 YPR, 7 TD

Another Georgia player that I’m sure many Falcons fans are already well aware of, Mecole Hardman is an explosive but unrefined deep threat that showed off dynamic punt return ability in limited action in 2018 (16 returns, 321 yards, 20.1 average, 1 TD). Hardman only has two years of WR experience under his belt, but his athletic talent is undeniable. I’d expect Hardman to have one of the best workouts at the Combine, which could cause his stock to rise considerably.

Hardman looks like a natural receiver, and that coupled with his athletic gifts makes him a high-upside player with a ton of potential to grow in the NFL. His frame isn’t quite ideal, and he’s essentially raw as a route runner, but he’s got the traits that you simply can’t teach. If his stock remains in the Day 3 range, Hardman could be a steal for the Falcons—particularly if they can develop him for a year behind Sanu before putting him on the field. Hardman may also end up being the best returner in this class when it’s all said and done.

Jalen Hurd, Baylor

Listed Size: 6’4, 228

2018 Production: 69 receptions, 946 yards, 13.7 YPR, 4 TD

One of the most talked-about WR prospects in the 2019 class, Baylor’s Jalen Hurd has had an interesting college career. For those that don’t know, Hurd began his career as a 5-star RB at Tennessee, putting up 1288 yards on the ground in his sophomore year. However, after a concussion, Hurd requested a position change to WR—which his coaches denied. He then transferred to Baylor, and the rest is history.

While Hurd is extremely raw as a WR, he has the prototypical frame of a WR1 at 6’4, 228 with phenomenal athletic ability. He has a physicality and tenacity to his game from his days of playing RB, with excellent run-after-catch ability and fearlessness when catching the ball. Hurd has the look of an eventual WR2 that can dominate at the catch point and in the red zone, but it could take awhile to unlock that potential. If he’s still available on Day 3, I love his upside and his fiery attitude. Plus, he’s still got the ability to contribute as a runner in short-yardage and on gadget plays.

Andy Isabella, Massachusetts

Listed Size: 5’9, 190

2018 Production: 102 receptions, 1698 yards, 16.6 YPR, 13 TD

The player that most seem to think will run the fastest 40-yard dash at the Combine, Massachusett’s Andy Isabella is a speed merchant with a surprisingly versatile skillset from the slot. What Isabella lacks in height at only 5’9, he makes up for with plenty of girth at 190—he looks almost like an RB on the field. That frame makes him resilient to hits without costing him any speed or agility, and Isabella is fearless at the catch point.

Isabella combines awesome deep speed with phenomenally smooth movement skills, making him more than just a one-trick pony. From the slot, he showed mastery of many different routes and is an advanced technician. The main knock on him is a lack of elite competition, but in his game against Georgia he still managed to put on a show. If he tests as well as I think he will, Isabella will probably lift himself into the Day 2 range. However, if he manages to fall into early-Day 3, he’d be a perfect long-term WR3 beside Julio and Ridley.

Terry McLaurin, Ohio State

Listed Size: 6’0, 202

2018 Production: 35 receptions, 701 yards, 20.0 YPR, 11 TD

If Andy Isabella is too expensive for the Falcons, another deep threat option is Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin. While he’s not quite the speed demon or elite athlete that Isabella is, McLaurin has a more pro-ready frame—which makes him a more versatile option that can line up out wide or in the slot. He’s definitely still got impressive deep speed—as his ridiculous 20.0 YPR can attest—but he’s not quite as agile in short spaces and doesn’t offer as much after the catch.

McLaurin is a polished technician, with a varied route tree and experience working all over the field. He dominated during the entire week at the Senior Bowl, showing off impressive physicality to go along with his deep speed. McLaurin is also a talented gunner, giving him an early path to playing time in the NFL. I was disappointed in McLaurin’s blocking, and his lack of ideal quickness probably limits his upside to an above-average WR3—but on Day 3, he could be an inexpensive improvement over Justin Hardy.

Jakobi Meyers, NC State

Listed Size: 6’2, 203

2018 Production: 92 receptions, 1047 yards, 11.4 YPR, 4 TD

Meyers is perhaps my favorite WR prospect for the Falcons in the 2019 class. With an early-Day 3 price tag and a versatile skillset, he’d be an ideal replacement for Sanu in 2020 that can still contribute as a rotational WR this season. I’ve had Atlanta drafting Meyers in several of my mock drafts, and here’s how I described his talents:

WR Jakobi Meyers is a QB-convert that has put up impressive production at NC State. While Meyers has to continue to learn the finer points of the position, he’s got all the traits you desire from a WR3-type player. He’s got the size—6’2, 203—the ball skills, and the competitive fire you want to see. Meyers also showed off quality blocking chops, which the Falcons require from their WRs. His overall athletic ability is merely average, but his frame and jump ball ability make him an excellent “move-the-chains” receiver.

Darius Slayton, Auburn

Listed Size: 6’1, 190

2018 Production: 35 receptions, 670 yards, 19.1 YPR, 5 TD

If the Falcons are looking for a late-Day 3 WR with the raw tools to develop into a quality WR3 or possibly even WR2, a tempting option is Auburn’s Darius Slayton. At 6’1, 190, Slayton has a pro-ready frame, and he’s demonstrated fantastic long speed and athletic ability over his career. His production dipped in 2018, but I blame that more on the offense than Slayton. He has the traits to become a starting NFL WR—he’s dangerous after the catch, physical with the ball in his hands, and versatile enough to line up all over the formation.

Athletically, Slayton could be one of the better players at the Combine, but there’s a long way to go before he can become a reliable option. His hands need a lot of work, his route running is raw and totally unrefined, and he’s simply not all that effective at separating despite his gifts. The Falcons can afford to let Slayton develop for a season, however, particularly since he could be had in the sixth round or even later—and if Atlanta holds on to Sanu and Marvin Hall, there’s no need to press him into service as a rookie.

Cody Thompson, Toledo

Listed Size: 6’2, 205

2018 Production: 48 receptions, 647 yards, 13.5 YPR, 10 TD

Toledo’s Cody Thompson has been one of my favorite “sleeper” WR picks since I first watched him play—live and in person—in 2015. Since then, he had an incredible breakout season in 2016 that saw him post a school-record 1269 yards on only 64 receptions (a ridiculous 19.8 YPR), before suffering a season-ending injury in 2017. His production didn’t quite return to those lofty heights in 2018, but he managed to come back healthy and continued to showcase his talents.

Thompson is a natural, comfortable receiver—his soft hands and advanced technique are his best attributes. He’s also got a nice frame at 6’2, 205, and his football IQ and character are off the charts. Thompson lacks elite deep speed, but he’s still an above-average athlete that’s capable of generating yards after the catch. He can line up all over the field—although his best NFL fit might be a matchup piece in the slot—and he’s a solid blocker as well. Add to that some quality special teams value—he’s made some plays as a returner and has blocked three kicks in his career—and you’ve got a WR prospect that should be able to find the field early in his career. At his likely mid-Day 3 price tag, Thompson could be an immediate upgrade at WR4 with the potential to take over for Sanu in 2020.


Who are some of your favorite WR prospects at the 2019 NFL Combine? Any players that you’re particularly interesting in the Falcons grabbing in this draft class? When do you think Atlanta should prioritize adding another WR to take over for Hardy, or eventually replace Sanu?