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2022 NFL Draft: Falcons top targets at WR

The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly here, and we’re wrapping up our coverage with our final positional rankings. Next up is wide receiver, the biggest need on offense for the Falcons and a possible choice at 8.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is almost here, and it’s finally time to wrap up all of our draft coverage with my final positional rankings. I’m proud to say I watched more than 100 players this offseason, far more than ever before. On the site, our team has compiled more than 20 full scouting reports on some of the top prospects in the class—with more to come over the next week! While you may not always agree with our rankings or analysis, we hope you’ve at least enjoyed the discussion and additional viewpoints.

For the positional rankings, these will be based on my personal rankings, not necessarily the rankings of our other writers. I watch players through the lens of the Atlanta Falcons: I prioritize and rank based on the perceived fit in Atlanta’s offense and defense. So keep that in mind, as these rankings may not line up with a generic big board.

I’d also like to note that while I watched a lot of players, I didn’t watch anywhere close to the nearly 300 who will be drafted. As a result, I’m only going to rank the players that I’ve seen at least 2-3 games of. There are tons of other prospects who I’ve seen limited tape of and discussed with other scouts, but I don’t feel comfortable ranking them without at least a few full games watched.

I hope you enjoy these rankings, and if you miss any position groups, you can find them all below:

DEFENSE: EDGE | DT | LB | CB | S | OFFENSE: QB | RB | TE | WR

1: Drake London, USC

RAS: N/A | Projection: 1st Round

One of my favorite receivers in the class, USC’s Drake London is without a doubt the most physically imposing receiver in the class. Coming in at a towering 6’4, 220, London wins in the ways you’d expect: at the catch point, on jump balls, and as a deep threat. He also wins in some unexpected ways: he’s a very good athlete capable of surprising agility, is a very good route runner for his size, and generates consistent yards after catch. London didn’t complete his athletic testing, and there are concerns about a lack of long speed. Those concerns don’t scare me based on my tape study: I see London as a prototypical X receiver who can make an immediate impact in the NFL.

2: Jameson Williams, Alabama

RAS: N/A | Projection: 1st Round

If not for an ACL injury in the CFP Championship, Jameson Williams would be the first receiver off the board in this class. After transferring out of Ohio State’s crowded receiver room, Williams took over the leading role at Alabama and posted a season for the ages: 79 catches for 1572 yards (19.9 YPR) and 15 TDs. Williams is a dynamic athlete with good size (6’2, 190) who dominates as a deep threat and creates tremendous separation with his routes. While he’s not a plus jump-ball or contested catch receiver, he offers a ton of run-after-catch ability and is a threat to take it to the house on every play. Williams has one of the highest ceilings of any receiver in this class—the only thing clouding the picture is his injury.

3: Chris Olave, Ohio State

RAS: 8.69 | Projection: 1st Round

It seems like I’m in the minority here, but I prefer Chris Olave over Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson. They’re both first-round caliber players to me, but something about Olave’s exceptionally smooth game really stands out to me. Olave might be the best route-runner in the draft, which means his path to early playing time in the NFL is clear. He’s an elite athlete with average size (6’1, 190) who wins by creating separation. Olave has excellent hands but he’s not a contested-catch specialist, and is best deployed in the intermediate and deep levels of the field. He’s also got experience playing in both the slot and on the outside, which adds to his schematic versatility.

4: Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

RAS: 7.80 | Projection: 1st Round

Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson came in a little smaller than expected (nearly 6’0, 183), but possesses a dynamic athletic profile that enables him to dominate with his run-after-catch and route-running ability. Wilson is a short-to-intermediate specialist who thrives on manufactured touches and quick-hitting plays. He’s an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, and is incredibly dangerous in the open field. My biggest issue with Wilson is that his best fit is likely as a slot receiver at the NFL level. That’s typically not an area of emphasis for Arthur Smith’s offense—which used 3 receivers just 31% of the time—but Wilson is a talented enough player that you should be able to find a multiple role for him.

5: Jahan Dotson, Penn State

RAS: 6.34 | Projection: 1st-2nd Round

A terrific athlete and playmaker at wide receiver, Jahan Dotson would probably be in the conversation for WR1 if not for his size: at 5’11, 185, he simply lacks the prototypical frame that NFL teams desire. He certainly doesn’t play like a smaller receiver, though, as Dotson has terrific hands and is tenacious at the catch point. Dotson is a technically advanced route runner who can provide value at any alignment, including outside and from the slot. Dotson has terrific tape and looks the part of a high-end WR2, but his lack of size might limit his ceiling and overall appeal to some teams.

6: Treylon Burks, Arkansas

RAS: 5.81 | Projection: 1st-2nd Round

Treylon Burks is without a doubt one of the best—and most challenging to evaluate—WR prospects in the 2022 class. A versatile, do-it-all receiver with great size (6’2, 225), Burks has the traits of a WR1 who can play all over the field. Whether it’s outside, from the slot, or even lined up in the backfield, Burks was one of the most productive receivers in all college football. He’s a tremendous contested-catch receiver and wins with physicality after the catch. However, Burks lacks route-running skills and doesn’t create much separation with his athleticism. He’s not a traditional receiver in any sense, though he has consistently found ways to win. If used creatively, Burks could be one of the best receivers in the class—but it’ll take a creative OC to get him there.

7: Christian Watson, North Dakota State

RAS: 9.96 | Projection: 1st-2nd Round

The biggest winner among the receivers at the Senior Bowl, Christian Watson cemented himself as a potential WR1 prospect by demonstrating his incredible long speed and measuring in at a legit 6’4, 215. This is an elite athlete with a WR1 frame. Watson has extremely high upside and looks tailor-made for Arthur Smith’s offense. NDSU ran the ball a ton this season, and Watson is an accomplished and willing blocker. He can potentially help you all over the field—both outside and in the slot. The primary issue is Watson’s undeveloped route tree: he’ll be a deep ball specialist early in his career. Patience will be needed as Watson grows his game, but he’s got a sky-high ceiling in the NFL.

8: George Pickens, Georgia

RAS: 9.37 | Projection: 2nd Round

Georgia’s George Pickens has seen his stock fluctuate quite a bit this offseason. A potential WR1 prospect, Pickens has ideal size at 6’3, 200 and pairs it with dynamic athleticism. He’s a threat at all levels of the field, with terrific hands, deep speed, and a big route tree. Pickens could stand to add some weight to his frame, and his work as a run-blocker needs improvement. There have recently been anonymous rumblings about Pickens’ character and off-field issues, but I don’t buy into rumors that come out the week before the draft. There’s a lot to like about Pickens, and he could be a good value early on Day 2.

9: Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

RAS: 7.59 | Projection: 2nd Round

One of the biggest risers this season, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore turned heads with an incredible 2021 season: 95 receptions for 1292 yards (13.6 YPR) and 10 TDs. He backed that up with some very good Combine testing, including a 4.41s 40 and 10’5” broad jump. Moore is on the small side for an NFL receiver at 5’9.5, 195, but displays impressive physicality in contested-catch and run-after-catch situations. He’s probably best suited to a slot role at the NFL level—which limits his appeal to a team like the Falcons—but Moore has a ton of long-term upside as an impact WR2. It’s worth mentioning that he’s only played three years at receiver as a former QB/DB convert.

10: John Metchie III, Alabama

RAS: N/A | Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Alabama’s John Metchie III is a little on the small side at 5’11, 195, but his thicker stature allows him to play a versatile role in the offense. Outside, in the slot, in the backfield on gadget plays, screens—Metchie can do it all at a high level. He looked like an elite athlete on tape—although he didn’t test at the Combine due to his injury—and that combined with his advanced technical skills and route tree will make him an instant-impact starter in the NFL. Metchie’s one big area of improvement is his hands: while not bad in this area, he has some drops on tape and didn’t always track the ball well downfield. The Falcons could use a dynamic short-yardage outlet and deep threat, and Metchie could immediately fill that void.

11: Calvin Austin III, Memphis

RAS: 9.08 | Projection: 3rd Round

One of the most fun tape watches for me this offseason has been Calvin Austin III. The athletic marvel out of Memphis is a spark plug with the ball in his hands and consistently puts out highlight reel plays. His lack of ideal size (5’7, 173) makes his NFL projection a little more challenging, but his ability with the ball in his hands in undeniable. As a deep threat and short-yardage weapon, Austin brings a dynamic presence to the WR position. He’s never going to be the primary guy, but I think Austin could be a high-end WR3 that makes the most of his opportunities in the passing game.

12: Alec Pierce, Cincinnati

RAS: 9.82 | Projection: 3rd Round

At 6’3, 213, Pierce has a big frame, long arms, and the strength to make an impact as a blocker in both the run and screen game. Pierce is a very good athlete for his size, with quality long speed and solid agility. His route running is advanced and nuanced, which could give him an immediate role in the offense. Pierce’s best traits are his hands and catch radius, and his tape is littered with circus catches. I think Pierce is an ideal WR2 at the NFL level who can win in any way you need, whether that’s short, intermediate, or deep.

13: Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

RAS: 8.62 | Projection: 3rd-4th Round

South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert has the skillset and build of a good all-around WR2 in the NFL. With plus size at 6’1, 195, Tolbert has the athletic profile to fill any number of roles. Primarily a deep ball specialist early in his career, Tolbert consistently added more skills and routes to his repertoire over the last two seasons. His route-running has improved, and he’s now an asset in the intermediate area of the field. He’s also shown off impressive run-after-catch ability, with plus physicality to break tackles in the open field. Tolbert has very good hands and ball skills, and gives tremendous effort as a run blocker. He’s not the flashiest or the biggest prospect, and the adjustment from a lower level of competition will take some time, but Tolbert has legit starting upside and could surprise at the NFL level.

14: Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky

RAS: 7.36 | Projection: 3rd-4th Round

One of the most dynamic receivers in college football, Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson had a bit of an unexpected path to his current status as a Day 2 receiver prospect. A former RB, Robinson made the transition to receiver after transferring to Kentucky from Nebraska. He’s steadily improved his skills as a receiver, culminating in a terrific 2021 season. Robinson is a player you’ll need to manufacture touches for, as I’m not sure he profiles as a difference-maker as a pure outside receiver. He’s also a bit small for a backfield role at just 5’11, 185. We’ve seen Arthur Smith utilize versatile “chess piece” players before, and Robinson could be a potential target for such a role.

15: David Bell, Purdue

RAS: 4.03 | Projection: 3rd-4th Round

Purdue’s David Bell (6’1, 212) is a physical receiver who can win in a variety of ways. He’s strong at the catch-point, can win in contested situations, and has great hands. Bell is a physical runner after the catch and offers a big, reliable target in the passing game. However, Bell’s athletic testing at the Combine raised some significant questions about his ceiling. Put simply, it’s rare for receivers of Bell’s size/speed profile (4.65s 40) to succeed at the NFL level. I really like Bell’s tape and think he can still be a productive WR3 in the right system.

16: Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

RAS: 8.56 | Projection: 4th Round

Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton turned heads at the Combine with an incredible 4.28s 40, which is all the more impressive considering his size (over 6’2, 181). That sort of testing demanded a look, and I found I actually liked what I saw from Thornton. As you might expect, Thornton is a high-end deep threat due to his combination of elite speed and ball-tracking ability. He’s also a physical, dedicated run blocker when his number is called. As of now, that’s pretty much all Thornton offers—but his size profile and physicality give me hope for a bigger route tree in time. As a deep ball specialist, Thornton can make an instant impact and there’s upside for a full-fledged WR3 role in time.

17: Justyn Ross, Clemson

RAS: 2.64 | Projection: 4th Round

Clemson’s Justyn Ross has a legit ceiling as a potential NFL WR3 with ability on the outside and in the slot, but his medical situation is concerning. Ross had spinal surgery in 2020 that caused him to miss the entire season, and he wasn’t quite the same player in 2021 after his return. If healthy, Ross offers a lot of upside as a big-bodied possession receiver. He’s not an impressive athlete (2.59 RAS), but does offer terrific size at nearly 6’4, 210. Ross runs pretty good routes overall and displays quality ball skills, excelling at the catch point. However, he’s never going to create a ton of separation, and will instead rely on his physicality, catch radius, and contested-catch ability to make plays. That skillset is valuable, particularly for Arthur Smith’s offense, and Ross is a capable and willing blocker in the run game as well.

18: Khalil Shakir, Boise State

RAS: 8.32 | Projection: 4th Round

A big riser from the Senior Bowl, Boise State’s Khalil Shakir showed off impressive hands and improved route-running ability in Mobile. He helped himself even more with a good day at the Combine, with a 4.43s 40 and a 10’4” broad jump. At 6’0, 196, Shakir has only average size but has a well-rounded game that should help him find an early role at the NFL level. He’s got good hands and ball skills, run-after-catch ability, and route-running finesse. Shakir will probably be most productive in the slot at the NFL level, but offers outside versatility as well. He’s not the flashiest player of the bunch, but he’s a good WR3 prospect.

19: Erik Ezukanma, Texas Tech

RAS: 7.03 | Projection: 5th Round

A late addition to my receiver rankings, Texas Tech’s Erik Ezukanma has a lot of fans in the draft community as a Day 3 sleeper. Ezukanma has a good-sized frame at 6’2, 210 and offers an above-average speed profile. He’s a contested-catch weapon, with the catch radius, physicality, and ball skills to excel in the red zone and over the middle of the field. Ezukanma was also very successful when deployed as a big slot option, taking advantage of smaller defenders and free releases. There’s potential for Ezukanma to become a productive NFL WR3.

20: Kevin Austin Jr., Notre Dame

RAS: 8.32 | Projection: 5th-6th Round

Notre Dame’s Kevin Austin Jr. made a name for himself with an exceptional Combine performance. Testing out with a 9.94 RAS, Austin measured in at over 6’2, 200 and put on a show with a 4.43s 40, a 1.48s 10-yard split, and elite agility and explosiveness testing. In terms of his skills as a receiver, Austin has limited experience and just one year of production as a deep ball specialist with 48 receptions for 888 yards (18.5 YPR) and 7 TDs. He’s a tough player who gives good effort as a blocker, but his route-running and technical skills are very undeveloped. Austin will need to prove he can play special teams, and will require a patient staff to develop him, but the upside and traits of an impact NFL receiver are there.