The offseason is here for the Atlanta Falcons, and that means it’s time to go full-throttle into free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. With my colleagues taking the lead on the free agency front, I’m going to be focusing my efforts over the next few weeks on the draft. Atlanta secured the 8th overall pick for 2023, the second year in a row that the team will hold that selection.
The next event on the Draft Season calendar is the Reese’s Senior Bowl—a showcase of the top draft-eligible seniors (or players who graduated early) that takes place in Mobile right around the first week of February. To get everyone ready for the week to come, I’ll be breaking down the top players to watch for the Falcons and the league at large.
DEFENSE | EDGE | IDL | LB | CB | S | OFFENSE | OT | IOL | WR | RB | TE
Next up in the positional previews is wide receiver, where the Falcons found their WR1 of the future in Drake London at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft but still need playmakers alongside him.
It seems like the Senior Bowl features a strong wide receiver group every single year, and 2023 is no exception. This year’s group is headlined by SMU’s Rashee Rice, but is stacked top-to-bottom with talent. There are so many good players to touch on, but let’s start with some of my favorites.
Rashee Rice, SMU
The top receiver prospect at the Senior Bowl, SMU’s Rashee Rice has a chance to move even higher in the draft with a strong week in Mobile. I’ve already sent him to the Falcons in a previous mock draft, and here’s how I described his game:
SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice has been rocketing up draft boards after an exceptional 2022 season, and is in contention to be a late first-round selection. Rice has good size at 6’2, 205 and looks the part of an elite athlete. His plus contact balance and explosiveness make him a threat any time he catches the ball. Plus, Arthur Smith will love the physicality he brings to his blocking assignments. Rice ran a limited route tree at SMU and will take some time to acclimate to the NFL, but he’s a dynamic playmaker who can perfectly complement the skills of Drake London and Kyle Pitts.
Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
The receiver with the most hype coming into the Senior Bowl, Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas has a big opportunity to become 2023’s Christian Watson. Much like Watson, Iosivas has a prototypical frame (6’3, 205) and elite athletic traits. Other than his level of competition and a pretty limited route tree, there aren’t any significant limitations to his game. He can beat you deep or with short-area quickness, he’s got excellent hands and physicality at the catch point, and he’s a difficult tackle after the catch. If he performs as expected in Mobile, this is a player we’ll be discussing as a potential late-first or early-second round pick.
Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
One of the most consistently productive receivers in the class, Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson capped off his college career with an outstanding 2022 season. A big-bodied (6’3, 205) receiver with very good lateral mobility, Hutchinson is a versatile player with few holes in his game. He’s a monster in contested catch situations and can win with physicality, while also possessing an extensive route tree and the experience to play out wide or in the slot. Hutchinson is a polished technician who clearly understands the finer points of the position and is one of the most NFL-ready prospects I’ve scouted. A lack of deep speed and overall explosiveness limits his ceiling—which is why he’s currently projected as a Day 2 pick—but an impressive week in Mobile could push him into the early second round conversation.
Jayden Reed, Michigan State
One of the most versatile receiver prospects in the class, Michigan State’s Jayden Reed has been on my radar for the Falcons for awhile. While Reed lacks the size (5’11, 215) and elite athletic traits to be a top pick, he makes up for it with an experienced, well-rounded skillset. Reed has played pretty much everywhere on offense, from outside to the slot, lined up in the backfield, and as a returner on special teams. His best trait is his yards-after-catch ability, where Reed possesses exceptional physicality and contact balance. Reed has terrific hands and is a polished technician, with a detailed and extensive route tree. He’s an ideal WR3 for the Falcons whose best traits fill a big need, while his ability to line up anywhere should help him see the field immediately.
Puka Nacua, BYU
If you’re looking for a big-bodied possession receiver, BYU’s Puka Nacua is one of the best in the class. Despite missing a good chunk of the 2022 season due to injury, Nacua still piled up 48 receptions (13.0 YPR) for 625 yards and 5 TDs. Right off the bat, Nacua’s physicality and competitive toughness jump off the tape. He’s fearless at the catch point, with strong hands to secure the ball and a terrific catch radius thanks to his 6’2, 210 frame. He’s very difficult to bring down after the catch and is a punishing run blocker on the outside. While I think Nacua actually has above-average deep speed, he’s a little stiff in terms of his lateral mobility and will probably never be an elite separator. Nacua has the potential to be a very good NFL WR2 who would fit in well in a run and play-action heavy offense like Atlanta’s.
Other players to watch:
Trey Palmer, Nebraska
Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia
Nathaniel Dell, Houston
Ronnie Bell, Michigan
Tre Tucker, Cincinnati
I hope you enjoyed this entry in our Senior Bowl 2023 preview series. I’ll be in Mobile to cover the Senior Bowl for The Falcoholic from Tuesday, January 31 through Thursday, February 2. Stay tuned for our next position preview this afternoon: running back.